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Child Witnesses: The Judicial Role

Judicial Review, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 281-294, 2006

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 07/15

15 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2007  

Judith Cashmore

The University of Sydney Law School


Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is explicit about children's right to express their views and to have an opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting them. This article focuses on the responsibility of courts, and in particular the judge or magistrate, in child sexual assault matters to facilitate children's testimony and improve children's experience of the court process. The way children are treated by the judge/magistrate and the legal and other professionals can have considerable impact on children's views about the fairness of the process and their attitudes toward the legal system. Judges and magistrates exercise considerable discretion in the use of special measures, over the admissibility of evidence, and controlling questioning, "modeling child conscious court practice," and giving directions and warnings to the jury. They set the tone of the courtroom and can model appropriate behaviour and ways of interacting with child witnesses that are respectful and allow children to testify in a full and fair manner. Judges are also perceived by children to be the most important "player" in court.

Keywords: Child witnesses, judicial role, perceived fairness, procedural justice

JEL Classification: K10, K14, K40

Suggested Citation

Cashmore, Judith, Child Witnesses: The Judicial Role. ; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 07/15. Available at SSRN:

Judith Cashmore (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006

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